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Microcystic Macular Changes in Primary Open-angle Glaucoma

Wen, Joanne C. MD; Freedman, Sharon F. MD; El-Dairi, Mays A. MD; Asrani, Sanjay MD

doi: 10.1097/IJG.0000000000000129
Original Studies

Purpose: To describe microcystic macular changes in patients with moderate to advanced primary open-angle glaucoma.

Patients and Methods: Eleven eyes of 6 unrelated patients were retrospectively identified based on a disproportionately preserved macular thickness on optical coherence tomography (OCT) despite severe peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer thinning. Patient demographic, history, and examination findings were reviewed.

Results: All identified patients were African American, relatively young (mean age, 43.8 y) and 5 of the 6 patients were males. Examination of individual macular OCT sections through areas of disproportionately preserved macular thickness invariably demonstrated numerous small cystic cavities within the inner nuclear layer. These microcystic changes were seen in areas of the macula that corresponded with areas of glaucoma-related ganglion cell loss, therefore mimicking the normal appearance of retinal thickness in the macular region. No other retinal pathologies were identified on the macular OCT to account for these changes.

Conclusions: This study describes microcystic macular changes in mostly young, African American males with moderate to advanced primary open-angle glaucoma. Vitreous adherence to the internal limiting membrane preventing retinal collapse is a proposed mechanism. The disproportionately preserved macular volume may confound the diagnosis of glaucoma in these patients.

Department of Ophthalmology, Duke University Eye Center, Durham, NC

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Sanjay Asrani, MD, Department of Ophthalmology, Duke University Eye Center, 2351 Erwin Road DUMC 3802, Durham, NC 27710 (e-mail:

Received December 15, 2013

Accepted August 21, 2014

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